Are mobile phones making us ruder?

A survey says 41% of people answer mobiles during meetings. It seems we've forgotten our manners.

Last Updated: 15 Mar 2011

For anyone who has had to sit through a meeting in the past few years, this may not come as much of a surprise: technology seems to be making us ruder. According to a new survey, it has now become more acceptable than ever before to answer phone calls and emails during meetings, while turning up as much as 20 minutes late is also seen as ok. And some people have even become rather amorous when it comes to greeting business contacts…

The survey, by hotel chain Future Inns (a survey on meetings by a hotel chain? must be the season for it), found that 41% of people say they answer their mobile phone during a meeting, and half actually get up and leave the room to take a call. Bizarrely enough, though, of that 41%, more than two-thirds take offence when other people do the same to them. So yes, the nation’s office workers may have double standards – but at least they’re honest about it…

People seem to be adopting a more laid-back attitude to timekeeping, too: almost a quarter of people think it’s ok to turn up 10 minutes late, while 14% don’t see a problem in keeping people waiting for 20 minutes, and a third even admit that they’ve cancelled a meeting because of a hangover. MT’s mother would be appalled. At least people are still keen on the traditional handshake, though – three quarters think it’s the best way to greet contacts, while 13% said a formal verbal greeting would be enough – though one in 10 go for a more European-style double-kiss. Ooh la la.

Now of course these aren’t the most world-changing figures to have come out of the MT newsroom, but they do raise a point (and it is August). However drawn-out and dull they may be, meetings give you a chance to demonstrate to clients how committed and professional you are – which is somewhat undermined if you walk out half-way through to take a call from your mate to reminisce over the previous night’s escapades.

Of course, when people are answering their mobile phones during a meeting, it does sort of raise a question over whether it’s actually necessary to hold it in the first place. So if your meeting is worth having, perhaps it’s best to ask people to leave BlackBerrys outside. After all, as MT’s parents liked to remind it on a depressingly regular basis: manners maketh man.

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